I get it! Difficult people on your team can zap your energy ‘getting on your nerves,’ making it a pain to work with them. Well guess what, I’m here to tell you that pretty much every difficult person you will ever lead, can be a great asset; you may even find them not so difficult after all!
This series has been dedicated to helping you figure out how to tap into hidden potential of difficult types and minimize the frustration:
- Part one when you’re challenged with a “The Know All” (TKA)
- Part two for the blow it up Revolutionary type (TNT) or
- Part three the Take No Prisoners (TNP) personality type
To wrap up the series, I’m going to help you with one seldom discussed, often misunderstood and a very draining style to work with… the Constant Critic (TCC)!
You know this type; they tend to be appear very negative. Just like Eeyore (from Winnie the Pooh) who constantly points out the negative in every move. They don’t cause big drama but they do seem reluctant to get onboard with anything new, usually based on some prior experience.
The Constant Critic profile:
Meet Pete – “Mr. Quiet Dissonance”
Pete (name changed) has an accounting background and works as a Director, Strategic Planning & Performance for a large Retailer. He's been an executive for 5 years but has been with the company for over 20. The 3 people who report to him quite enjoy working with him.
He reports to Marnie (not her real name), VP Business Performance who was recently promoted. Marnie and I have been working together on improving her direct team’s collaboration and she asked for help with Pete, in particular.
Pete is commonly referred to as the ‘company historian’ and has lived through a couple of mergers, several name changes as well as take over from a US-based company.
Marnie was forewarned that Pete seemed disengaged before she took on the team.
Pete is a great example of the Constant Critic personality type!
The good news is Pete responded positively to Marnie as soon as she began implementing strategies we spoke about.
Her action plan included:
At this point, her focus is on developing more of a trusted relationship, and that maybe all it takes.
Marnie's increased interest in his experience seems to have had a positive impact already; the team has noticed Pete becoming more participatory – no more crossed arms in meetings and some have even commented about him being more sociable.
The benefit of having a TCC on your team – great devils advocate, can help you develop persuasive arguments, often sees a different perspective and helps to reflect on pending plans. Often they have learned from past mistakes, can be a historian with very helpful information to draw upon.
The key to leading a TCC – remain positive, redirect negativity, stick to facts and data that support positive outcomes. Help them see the impact of their behaviour on others if it becomes a problem. Ask the TCC to reframe their initial reaction toward a more positive response.
Caution leading a TCC – do not get pulled into negativity. Limit how much time you give when they become negative.
For every difficult type of person, there is a way of changing YOUR perspective about what contribution they bring to your team. It may take a little effort, but drawing upon unique perspectives can be a competitive edge for your team.
If you are dealing with a difficult person on your team (or even your boss) and you’d like help to figure out how to communicate better with them, send me an email. There are just as many strategies as there are difficult personality types!
Can you see a bit of yourself in Pete? Have you been 'shutting down' at work, avoiding colleagues or find yourself to be increasingly contrary?
You may be a Constant Critic or are heading that way.
Time to reflect on how negative you may appear to others:
Photo CC0 @bkotynski Unsplash
Sitting together at a big oak table, in her spacious corner office on the 24th floor overlooking Bay and Wellington Streets in Toronto, my well-respected client asked me to help her map out the next steps in her career. She felt stuck; almost embarrassed that she was misaligned to her career after all it took to get there. Proof that even when you reach the coveted C-suite, you can still feel discontented or unfulfilled in your job.
Most people associate their sense of self and identity with the work they do and paycheque they make. You can see how difficult it would be to determine where to make the next move when you find yourself in this situation.
Where to Begin
I often suggest watching a TED Talk by Adam Leipzig, called How to Learn Your Life's Purpose in 5 Minutes. One of most popular TED Talks of all time, with more than 8.5 million views. In less than 10 minutes Adam provides 5 key questions to help identify your life’s purpose. It’s a great start to expanding your view on what you should do to give you fulfillment.
I use a variety of introspective tools as well as questioning techniques with my clients. If you feel stuck, or in a fog you’ll find a snippet of questions below that can begin to clear your view. This reflective exercise activates ideas, narrowing in on clues you can use to reimagine a more rewarding career or job.
Many of us are forced to make life-long choices selecting education specialties or career direction with minimal information about who we are and what we are best at. Seldom are we given tools to help identify what path to take.
Caught up in the tsunami of life and career, it sweeps you along without much time for reflection. In fact, sometimes it takes years of doing the wrong thing before it really dawns on you that you’re way off base!
Few can afford to leave their job to experiment and dabble in other fields to figure out where the right place is; instead you need a solid plan with a process to follow. What I’ve found best is to carve out time for self-reflection and introspection. Then seek feedback and dig into your strengths, doing this opens you up to connect with your calling.
YOUR CALLING = the intersection between doing what you love and the ability to make money doing it!
Who AM I Really?
The answer to the right place for most people is typically tied to who they are and have always been. There are trails of evidence that you can relate to when you go through this exercise. Similar to Adam’s Ted Talk these questions help you uncover what you’re meant to do.
Connect the Dots
While it seems a simple exercise, this reflection actually takes work to gather and time to contact and listen to as many people as you can.
It is vital that you remain open to hear feedback without judgement. Take notes, ask clarifying questions and avoid judging or defending. I always say feedback is a gift! So just accept whatever points people share and say thank you, graciously.
Armed with this information, you will find some obvious clues to connect the dots for what you are meant to be doing. The key to success in the future lies in leveraging your very best traits and skills while focusing on areas you’ve had the most enjoyment and impact to others. Impact to others is a crucial piece of data few ever collect. Service to others, or making a positive impact is a critical building block to most people’s work contentment.
From here brainstorm, look at what you can change in your current job to better align with your purpose. But also look for project work, roles, departments, or other industries and your network for potential opportunities to consider. The path isn’t always immediately obvious. Some people stay within their job working on the side with charities, volunteering or mentoring others or contributing to the greater good in other ways.
Craft an action plan to network further, identify potential jobs that leverage what you’ve done so far, look at independent work or other businesses where you can fully utilize all that makes you unique.
If you find yourself struggling in a job that leaves you feeling undervalued, and want assistance from a leadership coach to help guide you , provide feedback and gain clarity with accountability to follow through, please send me an email! Or if you’d like to delve deeper into who you are and what makes you tick, please reach out. It would be a privilege for me to help you find work you love!
Photo: Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license
Welcome to Part 3 of our series, Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up. So far we covered the initial two foundational phases of building a kick-ass team: The Start Up Phase and Building the Team Identity. Now, it’s time to talk about everyone’s favourite topic – conflict!
So you have a solid team that’s working together. They know what they need to do and they have a good sense of how to do it.
Perfect! Or is it?
This is the time where bumps in the road to success are most likely to appear.
Think of team building like first starting to ride a bike without training wheels. Once you’re up and first rolling along, you may begin to wobble. Careful you don't overcorrect in an attempt to save yourself or you’re going to fall flat on your face…
Here’s how to handle your team’s wobbly period the right way:
Right now is the single most important time for you as a leader to really be present! Since this is when your team is actually settling in, the dynamics of different people sets off a whole chain of events and awkward reactions. Make sure you’re easily accessible and frequently visible so you can address concerns immediately.
Kick-Ass Team Tip - MBWA:
Ever heard of MBWA? Management By Walking Around is a great success habit for any leader. An unstructured random walk around to check in with your team demonstrates interest; it’s a deliberate strategy to get to know your people and will give you a chance to redirect and course-correct as friction develops.
As different personalities emerge, conflict and power struggles will surely arise. This period is when you’ll hear the most resistance from your people and a lot of questioning about why and how you and/or the company are doing things.
In addition, polarization or splinter groups can occur as your people start to choose who they like and who they don’t. In worst-case scenarios, you may even encounter open and vocal power struggles, which can be very difficult to manage.
Manage through this challenging phase using these T.E.A.M. strategies…
1. Talk it Out
We always filter what we hear based on our own personal vantage point, coloured by previous experiences and jaded by our own distinct behavioural style. During this phase of your team building process you may notice your team divides as some disagree with approaches or just need to be heard before they ‘buy in’.
Before a team can really work well together, you may have to help them work through their differences, and the best way to do that is by talking it out.
Bring the team together to discuss issues that seem to cause confusion or frustration. You’ll need to actively listen, hear out the root issues vs. just the conflict then facilitate the solution. In some cases you may have to veto the dissent. If so, bring the team back to the norms discussed in Part Two. The more you can reinforce HOW the team should deal with issues together, the better.
2. Eat Together
This may seem like an odd strategy for building a team, but I assure you, the more often you eat together, the higher the camaraderie and engagement!
The concept of ‘breaking bread’ may have a spiritual connotation to some, but the truth is, when you eat with a group of people, it creates an environment of meaningful social interaction.
Eating together improves connectedness at a basic human level, and as such, people’s ego’s leave the room. Everyone opens up and gets to know each other on an even playing field.
Consider these inexpensive ideas for eating together as a team:
There isn’t a human alive who doesn’t want to be appreciated. Being valued helps us reinforce our own sense of personal self worth.
When someone has noticed you, or you’ve been acknowledged for your work, you’ll feel well respected and more important. AND, as a result, you’ll want stay part of such as kick ass team!
According to Gallup Research, “The best managers promote a recognition-rich environment, with praise coming from every direction and everyone aware of how others like to receive appreciation. This type of employee feedback should be frequent -- Gallup recommends every seven days -- and timely to ensure that the employee knows the significance of the recent achievement and to reinforce company values.”
Kick Ass Team Tip - Appreciation
During this somewhat stress-filled period, you’ll likely be pulled in many directions – you’re going to be a very popular person! In order to provide the comfort and assurance your team are looking for, it’s important to host regular check-in meetings.
There’s also another reason why regularly scheduled (and attended!) meetings will pay off. Believe it or not, it’s one of the key ingredients in developing THE single most important factor of a kick ass team – trust.
Your team wants to, and needs to, hear from you…often. Don’t assume they are fine to just get to work – right now is when your team needs your connection and oversight the most. Through this phase you’ll want to set more touch points than usual so you can manage expectations, head off issues and communicate progress or changes.
Kick Ass Team Tip - Meeting Etiquette:
Ideal Meetings for Kick Ass Teams (Yes all of these during team formation!)
The Bust Through Barriers phase of team formation can be a very draining time for you as a leader. You may be called upon to referee and manage conflict and be pulled in multiple directions. It is a vital time for your team and can be a make it or break it period in the dynamics of your team. Give Dots Leadership Solutions a call if you need help, we can do individual behavioural assessments, facilitate meetings or work through conflict and coach you through difficult conversations.
We want to hear from you - comment below about your own experience going through this conflict filled phase about how you busted through the barriers?
Lookout for the next chapter in the series - Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up – Part 4 – Kum Ba YES! This is the phase when team identity really comes through, everyone understands why they are on the team, there are established rules and processes and the team culture really begins to come to life. Now your role as the leader takes on a slightly different course of action.
Welcome back to our series ‘Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up’. In the first post Part One - The Start Up Phase we covered the initial phase of team formation. In this blog, we’re moving on to building the team’s identity, which is essential for establishing team norms so that everyone knows how the team operates.
In this phase you will be hands-on and sometimes directive. This is a time for obtaining your new team’s commitment, setting well-defined expectations and clear objectives. This is also a critical time for you, as the leader, to demonstrate your commitment and follow through. Lets look at the key steps to founding your team with an identity each member can embrace.
1. Crack the Ice
Right now you have a team of strangers together or they haven’t worked together with you, as yet. To get work done, they’ll first need a chance to connect on a different level; otherwise they’ll naturally be cautious and hesitant to get down to work. You COULD throw them straight into the day-to-day work, but we’re talking about building kick-ass teams here – and kick-ass teams begin with a kick-ass culture. A better way to begin would be with a little bit of fun – laughter is the one of best ways to help people break down their walls.
There are plenty of team-building icebreaker games you can do to help warm up your group. Just be mindful that the icebreaker should properly underpin your objectives and be appropriate for the work environment. For example, I don’t recommend a game that involves hand-holding (i.e. like the one called Electric Current in the link) with engineers in a corporate workspace – they surely would be uncomfortable and resistant.
One of my favourite icebreakers is storytelling. This involves getting everyone together in a room and having each participant share the following:
As the leader of this icebreaker, it’s important to listen carefully and point out similarities or connections between team members (i.e. like how many people are a middle child). It’s also important to watch how comfortable each participant is. If anyone seems uncomfortable, try giving him or her a different question when they get stuck. If it’s a big group you can also break the team into smaller groups then have each group provide an overview of the fun highlights they learned.
To wrap up the icebreaker, make a summary statement about your team’s diverse backgrounds, different skill sets, similarities or the great potluck lunches you expect to have in the future!
The most important note is that YOU go first! You set the tone for participation. Make the exercise fun and memorable and be open and transparent. Enjoy this time to connect before you all get down to business.
2. Set the Stage
Remember in Part One – The Start Up Phase when you did all that white boarding of your vision? Now’s the time to share it!
Even if you went over your plans with each person, as you were onboarding, it’s still important to review your vision and communicate your expectations to the whole team. If you’re in a formal work environment, you may wish to create a slide presentation to walk through, otherwise use this list below to help guide your team meeting:
Kick Ass Action Step - Share Your Top 5 Personal Values
Take time to let your new team know about what you personally value and expect – these help to lay a foundation for the behaviour of the team. You can refer to this Core Values list to contemplate your top five. By conveying what you’re all about, you’ll be helping your team know more about who you are and what you do or don’t tolerate.
3. Assign the Mission
Just like in the Mission Impossible movies, each team member needs to know what they personally need to accomplish, what they will be held accountable for and who to go for approval or solving problems. This is a perfect time to share the job specs you developed in phase one, if you haven’t already.
Provide members of the team with their own job description and have him or her review their role considering the context you shared when you set the stage. Discuss their individual objectives to help meet the overall goals and ask them to begin thinking of their own development plan. This is a good time to check in and see what help they may need to be successful, and to let them know how frequently you’ll be checking in with them moving forward.
4. Establish Team Norms
You’ve likely worked in different teams with an assortment of distinct norms. Perhaps you’ve encountered one where the people were backstabbing and constantly late to meetings, or another where the people were supportive and eager to help each other succeed. I can guarantee you that the difference you experienced wasn’t the company; it was very much indicative of the behaviour of the leadership.
Team norms are standards and operating principles that groups demonstrate and quickly become the internal culture of a team – the ‘how we do things around here’ you encounter. It is during the ‘building team identity’ step that you, as the leader, can set the tone for these norms, whether by design or by action. The way your team operates is a direct reflection of you.
Think about what your team can count on when working with you…
With your guidance and direction in these areas, you can influence the culture of your team in a way that will not only have an immediate effect, but also a long term one. If you’d like to chat about developing a team charter that everyone will ‘sign up to’, let me know – I work with businesses to set principles that shape team norms.
Kick-Ass Action Step: Take a moment to list the norms YOU will personally uphold and commit to – i.e. responding to emails in a timely manner, remaining open to differences, working efficiently, following through on commitments, being on time etc. Then make those your MO! Your actions will directly influence how the team culture is formed.
5. Be Consistent
I recently read a great post on LinkedIn called No Consistency, No Success by Grant Cardone. In it, he acknowledges that consistency builds discipline and disciplined actions done consistently create success – both personally and professionally.
The fact is, the best leaders follow through. This builds trust, creates credibility, sets the tone with a team and forms the basis of a team’s identity. Follow my simple Kick Ass rule below to become a more consistent leader:
Kick-Ass Tip – a simple rule:
If you’re setting up your team identity or are struggling if its gone awry and want to talk strategy or simply design a killer team building session, contact Dots Leadership Solutions. We design kick-ass strategies to help leaders launch their teams successfully!
Watch for the next instalment in the series, Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up – Bust Through the Barriers, where we’ll talk about the high conflict stage of a team formation – this is where you’ll learn how to earn major leadership stripes!
We welcome your comments – let us know of your challenges or successes in building a kick-ass team.
When great employees don’t get what they need to thrive, they wither; your previously amazing rock star employee may transcend to one of the ‘working dead’..... that have quit, but stayed!!! They may get sick a lot, become disheartened and don’t try anymore - overall team productivity takes quite a hit. You've probably witnessed it in action because this is a huge issue occurring worldwide!
According to Gallup less than 13% of employees are engaged worldwide – that means ‘working dead’ employees are all around us, but with a concerted effort you can bring them back from the brink while preventing the further demise of your very best people.
Top 5 Ways to Prevent The Office Zombie Take Over:
1. Provide Feedback & Guidance
Great employees are often given ‘atta boys’ and ‘keep doing what you’re doing’ pats on the back but what they really crave is your candid feedback and guidance so they can stretch and learn more. They want to know what are the right things to focus on, not just hear platitudes like ‘good job’. Real candid feedback is a great gift when given with the sincere wish to help others develop their full potential. Check out the statistics in this Forbes well named article: The Best Gift Leaders Can Give. This the single most valuable tool in your tool kit so take time to learn how to develop the art of candid feedback (new blog in the making)!
2. Offer Interesting Work & Personal Development
Employees want to to be given opportunity and support to do work that they love to do. In Daniel Pink - Drive’s book and You Tube RSA he points out that when people are able to develop mastery in a subject that is meaningful to them, they would work for free! Take a moment to reflect on each of your team and ask yourself what they are great at and what development would they be seeking, validate your in your one on ones, then make a plan to enable the kind of personal development that would be meaningful to them.
3. Be A Considerate Leader
Close colleagues and family are important to each of us; we want to work with a manager who realizes there is more in our life than just work, work, work (cue Rhianna) and who cares about our personal situations. Yes, work is work and personal life is personal life, but each and everyone of us juggles both!! The best leaders always take an interest in their employee’s lives, they make a point to know the names of their loved ones and ask about them. Give your team the support they need to maintain social and family life and you'll have great return on that investment. Demonstrate your support - send notes, flowers or gift baskets when something significant happens in their life, it always makes the difference to great performers.
4. Always Follow Through
Simple rule – Do what you say you’re going to do!! Living up to your own commitments with your team is a very simple yet profound non verbal 'statement' that you can be trusted. Live by your word; demonstrate they can trust you to fulfill any promises or agreements you sign up for. It’s the little things that really add up and count!! Nothing squashes loyalty faster than a boss that never follows through.
5. Encourage Innovation
Create a work environment that allows people to fail – give them ownership to try new things with a safety net. Problem solving together as a team and innovating collectively feeds the spirit with hope for a new and fulfilling future. Billionaire Richard Branson and his company the Virgin Group openly ‘encourage giving people the freedom to fail and try again’. They say ‘successful companies encourage risk-taking and reward ingenuity.’ No wonder so many people yearn to work with them!
If you want to prevent a 'working dead' environment from manifesting, dots Leadership Solutions can help!! We can provide you with one on one coaching to create a positive work experience for both you and your team.
We can also act as an objective partner to meet your team, delve in and uncover hidden issues that may inhibit motivation, causing the potential zombie uprising. We provide proven strategies to build back engagement, give us a call at Dots Leadership Solutions!
Elaine Adamson is a leadership consultant with Dots Leadership Solutions Inc. A natural dot connector. Passionate about coaching team effectiveness and leadership development she shares over 25+ years of real-life tips and tricks that really work!
Elaine believes you can discover and leverage strengths to forge a strong team dynamic despite business challenges or organizational change.